Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Once Upon a Time an Alcoholic Hairdresser Lived in Japan





Maybe two.
For our one year anniversary my Japanese friends took me to a hotel in Shimoda. When you stay at a Japanese hotel that has an onsen (hot spring) you stay in a room that seems nearly empty, they provide you with a yukatta, a cotton robe, which you put on and wear for your entire stay. That's right, everyone eats, sleeps and walks around in their robes when they are not naked in very hot water. If you have a tattoo you cannot go into a public swimming pool or an onsen. That is because the Japanese Mafia,Yakuza, (http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/gang/yakuza/1.html) wear tattoos and the ban on tattoos is to keep public baths free of crime.
So anyway, the first consul from the US to Japan, Harris, came to Shimoda (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,501021111-386980,00.html) and was given a Geisha, O Kichi-san.
O Kichi was an uncommonly beautiful girl whose family sent her away to be a Geisha, she had a childhood friend with whom she later fell in love and was betrothed but then Harris (portrayed by John Wayne in the movie version; The Barbarian and The Geisha http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/3913/The-Barbarian-and-the-Geisha/overview) saw her asked for her as part of his deal with Japan so she left her true love for the good of Japan and started to drink to deal with her sorrow. Harris went back to the US, her former love wanted nothing to do with her so she opened a hair salon. She drank heavily. lost the salon, opened a brothel, drank more, lost that and drowned herself at the age of 51. It sounded a lot like Madame Butterfly but when I googled Madame Butterfly the story on which it was based was written before O Kichi- san's death. Today I visited her house and her grave and saw the actual palanquin upon which she was carried to Harris. There was this really drunk guy praying at her grave so I think maybe she is the unofficial Shinto patron saint of drunks.

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